This section is from "Scientific American Supplement Volumes 275, 286, 288, 299, 303, 312, 315, 324, 344 and 358". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
Carbonic acid occurs, as we have already stated, in large quantities in combination with lime and magnesia, forming immense rock formations of limestone, chalk, marble, dolomite, etc.; it also issues in a gaseous state from volcanoes, and it is always present in small quantities in the atmosphere; it is found dissolved in well and river waters, and it is a product of the respiration of animals. Brewers also are well aware of the existence of this body, for it is evolved in enormous quantities during the alcoholic fermentation of saccharine fluids. When carbonaceous substances are burnt the bulk of the carbon is converted into carbonic acid, and thus our furnaces and fireplaces are continually emitting enormous quantities of carbonic acid into the atmosphere. With these different sources of supply it might reasonably be thought that carbonic acid would be gradually accumulating in our atmosphere; the breathing of animals, the eruption of volcanoes, the combustion of fuel, and the fermentation of sugar, are ever going on, and to a fast-increasing extent with the progress of civilization, and yet the proportion of carbonic acid in our atmosphere is no greater now than it was at the earliest time when exact chemical research determined its presence and quantity. A counteracting influence is always at work; nature has beautifully provided for this by causing plants to absorb carbonic acid, holding some of the carbon, and allowing the oxygen to escape again into the atmosphere to restore the equilibrium of purity. This mutual evolution and absorption of carbonic acid is continually going on; occasionally there may be either an excess or a deficiency in a particular place, but fortunately any irregularity in this respect is soon overcome, and the air retains its original composition, otherwise animal life on the face of the globe would be doomed to gradual but sure extinction.
Carbonic acid can be prepared for experimental purposes by causing dilute hydrochloric acid to act upon fragments of marble placed in a bottle with two necks, into one neck of which a funnel passing through a cork is fixed, and into the other a bent tube for conveying the gas into any suitable receiver. The evolution of carbonic acid by this method is rapid, but easily regulated, and the gas may be purified by causing it to pass through some water contained in another two-necked bottle, similar to the generator. The chemical change involved in this decomposition is expressed by the following equation:
CaCO_3 + 2HCl = CO_2 + H_2O + CaCl_2 Calcium Hydrochloric Carbonic Water. Calcium Carbonate. Acid. Acid. Chloride.
By referring to the table of combining weights given in a previous paper, it will be seen that 100 parts of calcium carbonate will yield 44 parts of carbonic acid. Instead of hydrochloric acid any other acid may be used, and in the practical manufacture of carbonic acid for aerated waters sulphuric acid is the one usually employed. Carbonic acid is colorless and inodorous, but has a peculiar sharp taste; it is half as heavy again as air, its exact specific gravity being 1529; one hundred cubic inches weigh 47.26 grains. It is uninflammable, and does not support combustion or animal respiration. Under a pressure of about 38 atmospheres, at a temperature of 32° F., carbonic acid condenses into a colorless liquid, which may also be frozen into a compact mass resembling ice, or into a white powder like snow. Carbonic acid is soluble in water, and at the ordinary pressure and temperature one volume of water will hold in solution one volume of the gas; under increased pressures, far larger quantities of the gas can be held in solution, but this is rapidly evolved as soon as the excess of pressure is removed. Upon this property the manufacture of aerated waters depends. The presence of free carbonic acid can be easily detected by causing the gas to pass over the surface of some clear lime-water. If any be present a white film of carbonate of lime will at once be formed. In testing carbonic acid in a state of combination, the gas must first be liberated by acting upon the substance with a stronger acid, and then applying the lime-water test. The presence of large quantities of carbonic acid in a gaseous mixture can be readily detected by plunging into the vessel a lighted taper, which will be immediately extinguished. This ought always to be adopted in a brewery, where many fatal accidents have happened through workmen going down into empty fermenting vats and wells without first taking this precaution.
The presence of carbon in this colorless gas can be demonstrated by causing some of it to pass over a piece of the metal potassium placed in a hard glass tube, and heated to dull redness; the potassium then eagerly combines with the oxygen, forming oxide of potassium, and the carbon is liberated and can be separated in the form of a black powder by washing the tube out with water.
Carbon Monoxide, or Carbonic Oxide. Symbol CO.--This is formed when carbon is burnt with an insufficient supply of oxygen, or when carbonic acid gas is passed over some carbon heated to redness. This gas is continually being formed in our furnaces and fire-places; at the lower part of the furnace, where the air enters, the carbon is converted into carbonic acid, which in its turn has to pass through some red-hot coals, so that before reaching the surface it is again converted into carbonic oxide; over the surface of the fire this carbonic oxide meets with a fresh supply of oxygen, and is then again converted into carbonic acid. The peculiar blue lambent flame often observed on the surface of our open fire-places is due to the combustion of carbonic oxide, which has been formed in the way we have just described. Carbonic oxide is a colorless, tasteless gas, which differs from carbonic acid by being combustible, and by not having any action on lime water.--Brewers' Guardian.